What constitutes a basement bedroom (for egress purposes)
May 10, 2014 6:26 PM   Subscribe

Do I need an egress window in a basement bedroom that has no door?

I am fully aware that building codes will vary so no reason to point out that I need to check with my building inspector first. That will be my next step after asking you good folks.

I am planning on putting a bedroom in a home with a walk-out basement. Adjacent to the room I want to use as a bedroom is a room with the door to the yard and two large windows. Unfortunately, the bedroom has no windows and the outside walls of this room are below ground level.

If I left the door off this room, so that it is open to the room with the exterior door and windows, would that negate the requirement for an additional means of egress from the bedroom?
posted by Thrillhouse to Home & Garden (14 answers total)
I really doubt it. You're going to have to dig an egress window.
posted by sanka at 6:29 PM on May 10, 2014

Like you said, check the codes, but I would say it is highly unlikely that would work. The point of egress is immediate access to the outside (or access from outside). For it to be classified as a bedroom, egress is a requirement. Leaving the door off is just a loophole, and won't fly with any building department.
posted by shinynewnick at 6:33 PM on May 10, 2014

There's probably some definition of what constitutes a "doorway" vs "not a doorway". Sounds like you want the bedroom and the adjacent room to be considered to be the same room; that must be defined in the applicable building code (I'll bet it needs to be a pretty big opening between the two rooms for it not to be considered a doorway).
posted by BillMcMurdo at 7:25 PM on May 10, 2014

If this does get around the building codes, then those are bad building codes.

The purpose of rules on egress is fire safety: if a fire starts while you are asleep, it shouldn't be possible for it to spread in such a way that you become trapped in your bedroom. What you're proposing doesn't seem like it would do anything to alleviate this problem.
posted by firechicago at 7:29 PM on May 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Doors can protect people from fire and smoke; I can't see how removing one would makes room safer.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 7:45 PM on May 10, 2014

A quick refresher look at the IRC doesn't reveal an obvious basis that would allow this, which means it will be a judgement call. Which means that it really is pointless to ask us -- just ask your building official. Even if you got 1000 comments affirming this as a good, allowable solution (which you will not), it really, really will not help you. The only opinion that matters is that of your building official.
posted by misterbrandt at 7:48 PM on May 10, 2014

Response by poster: Thanks for the responses, everyone, even if they weren't what I wanted to hear.
posted by Thrillhouse at 7:51 PM on May 10, 2014

My mum's house has a basement bedroom basically just like what you're asking, except that the second exit point is on the second non-outside wall and leads out into the hallway which connects the stairs.
|               |
|-A-----        |
|      |   X    |
|  Y   |        |
|      |        O
|      B        |
Room X is the walkout part of the basement and is connected to the Stairs and Outside. Bedroom Y has two doorways, A and B, but no direct access to the outdoors (and is underground).

Maybe this arrangement would work in your house, too... If a fire breaks out in front of door A, you go out door B. (IANASafetyInspector, check your code in your jurisdiction to find out if this is allowable, etc.)
posted by anaelith at 9:01 PM on May 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

Similar to anaelith, I know a house that has a windowless basement bedroom with a door that leads to a hallway and a second door into a walk-in closet which itself has a door that leads to a different bedroom's closet (and bedroom) and the different bedroom has a window as well as a door that leads to the same shared hallway. And somehow that met code though I think it was probably last checked around 2000.
posted by vegartanipla at 9:57 PM on May 10, 2014

If you're trying to make this a legal bedroom, like one you could in good faith list as another bedroom on a real estate or rental listing... Then check your local codes very carefully.

Because in my area at least, and I think even in my state it's not a extol if it doesn't have a window larger than X(pretty small) size and a closet. Otherwise it's just a room, and you have to call it a bonus room or an office or whatever.

The egress thing may be cart before horse, if you're trying to make this a legit additional bedroom.
posted by emptythought at 3:30 AM on May 11, 2014

Nthing everyone upthread. We had to do this in the basement of our house. The dugout and window cost a couple thousand dollars about fifteen years ago. Not what you want to hear, but it's the safe thing to do.
posted by Elsie at 4:35 AM on May 11, 2014

Maybe. Maybe not. There's code legal and there's real-estate legal. The only way this room could qualify for code legal might be if the opening is big enough for it really not to count as an enclosure - think open archway, not just a door. First off, every bedroom requires a window. In Portland, a basement bedroom requires an egress window. If you have a daylight basement, you may be able to get away without an egress window but you won't get away with no window.

In your situation, I might try double French doors with glass inserts (to allow light in - can be frosted or semi-sheer curtained for privacy) and show this on the plan to a building official. Make sure that your other doors and windows into the main space are up to code.

You can never really base what you can do in your house based on what you see in other homes. "My friend Joe doesn't have egress windows in his basement and he's got three bedrooms down there." "Did Joe obtain proper permits and inspections for the work?" "I dunno." "Well, there's your answer."

Also, all inspectors are different. They may allow an edge case (like yours) to go if it appears to be safe in your design, layout and use. Or, they might not.
posted by amanda at 2:40 PM on May 11, 2014

And truly, a door to the yard from the basement is better from a fire safety standpoint than a pit egress window. There are maximum depths allowed for pit egress windows, too. So if you are far below ground it still may not be feasible to do an egress window to that space. You may simply come up short by not having a window into the space at all. If that's the case, you may need to work the window you do have into the space somehow. Architects are super helpful at coming up with creative solutions. Hire one!
posted by amanda at 2:48 PM on May 11, 2014

I am fully aware that building codes will vary so no reason to point out that I need to check with my building inspector first.

Then there is no reason to ask here because nothing anyone says will matter. At all. Not one bit.

That is the shortest, most concise answer. But to elaborate: for example, where I live, an egress window and CO/smoke detector is all that is needed to call it a bedroom. You don't need carpet, don't need a finished ceiling or finished walls, don't need a closet, and don't even need lights or power outlets. If you do have those things, there are bedroom codes for them, but they aren't needed to call it a bedroom--just the window, CO, and smoke.

I used to live in a place that needed ALL of those things I listed to call it a bedroom, for the contrary.
posted by TinWhistle at 10:42 AM on May 12, 2014 [1 favorite]

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